Bringing a new baby home is a joyous time for the family, but it can upset your pooch if not properly prepped. What's more, it can trigger potentially dangerous behavior. Family dogs are often sensitive to the appearance of new individuals in their household, which they conceive as their pack. Start minimizing stress to your dog before the stork arrives with your new bundle of joy! Here are a few basic considerations to get you started.
Teach Basic Obedience
Teaching your dog basic obedience skills will help manage his behavior when the baby arrives, preventing such behaviors such as jumping around the baby and other potentially dangerous behavior. You'll be able to fully focus on your newborn's needs without worrying about the dog and his behavior. Train your pooch to "sit," "leave it," "lie down" and "stay" on command. If you experience difficulty teaching obedience skills to your dog, it's probably a good idea to hire a certified professional dog trainer to help train him in group classes or private sessions.
Dogs are extremely sensitive to change in their environment. For that reason, set up the nursery with all its furniture at least a month before the baby arrives so your pooch can adjust to the new set-up. Train the pup to sit outside the nursery door and to enter only when you give permission with a command. Once he learns to obey the command, allow him inside the nursery to explore, but only under your supervision. If you plan on installing a baby swing in the nursery, leave it swinging for a few hours each day, which will help desensitize your pooch to the back-and-forth motion. Dogs often become agitated around the constant motion of baby swings, so it's important to introduce it to him in advance.
Getting to Know You
Introduce your dog to the upcoming new world of baby smells and activities so he'll be familiar with them once the baby arrives. Remove new baby supplies and equipment from their packaging and show each one to the dog, allowing him to sniff them. If he attempts to chew any of them, say a simple but firm "no" command and direct his attention to his chew toys. To help Fido become accustomed to baby smells, apply baby lotion, creams and powder on yourself, the stroller, baby carrier, baby sling, car seat and other baby equipment. You can also use a doll to simulate future activities you'll be engaged in, such as diaper changing, feeding, rocking and bathing. While you might feel odd pushing an empty stroller down the street, doing so while walking your dog can help teach him how to behave around the newborn.
When the Stork Arrives
The good news is that your dog doesn't need to be showered with attention and extra toys to feel loved after the baby is born -- simply stick to his regular routine. Keeping to his familiar schedule of exercise and feeding times will help him feel less threatened by the baby, and he won't need to compete with her to get his basic needs met. Even after he becomes comfortable around the baby, never leave them together unsupervised. If you're not going to be able to keep your eye on them, crate the dog or shut the door to the nursery so he can't enter. If your dog has difficulty adjusting to the baby or displays aggressive behavior, consult an animal behavior specialist for guidance.
By Liza Blau
Doggone Safe: Baby Safety Around Dogs
ASPCA: Preparing Your Dog for a New Baby
Cesar'sWay: Introduce Your Dog to Your Baby
The Humane Society of the United States: Introducing Your Pet and New Baby
Paw-Rescue.org: Preparing Dogs and Other Pets for Life With Baby
About the Author
Liza Blau received a B.A. in English from Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in fiction anthologies from Penguin Press, W.W. Norton, NYU Press and others. After healing her own life-threatening asthma by switching to a whole, natural foods diet, she founded the NYC Asthma Wellness Center. Blau counsels individuals on healing their own asthma and allergies with dietary and lifestyle changes.